May 5, 2014

When I was the chief development officer at Trinity Repertory Company, 75 volunteers joined me to solicit 500 individual and corporate prospects every single year. Only 10 of those volunteers were board members. The rest were subscribers who loved the theatre.

This annual operating support/core program campaign ran from January through March. The campaign began with a kick-off, mini training, and selection of prospects.

Solicitors signed personalized letters requesting a meeting. And then off they went, those wonderful solicitors. They contacted their prospects personally. Mostly they had face-to-face meetings. Sometimes they solicited over the telephone. (Although I discouraged that, of course.)

The solicitors secured pledges and reported those pledges to the office. The office sent thank-you letters and reminder notices for pledge payment.

And we repeated this process every year that I worked there. Over and over. The first year, it was 10 prospects and 2 solicitors. And then it grew and grew.

Yes, sure…some people didn’t fulfill their commitments (the solicitors!) So I graciously took away the prospects and did them myself or assigned them to other solicitors.

I’m always startled when organizations – no matter the size – tell me they don’t do this every year. Why not? We all know that personally meeting and listening and talking with a donor – and then asking… is pretty much the best way to raise money.

Visit the Free Download Library on my website for sample materials. Check out Andrea Kihlstedt’s book Asking Styles. Visit CharityChannel Press to see all the great fundraising and soliciting books there. Amy Eisentein’s Major Gift Fundraising for Small Shops.  Read Jerry Panas’ book Asking. See Laura Fredricks’ book The Ask.

Please please please…. Do personal face-to-face solicitation every single year to support general operations. Good luck.

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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